Certificate Learning Objectives:

  • Goal 1: To have a solid skill base for the assessment and development of research design strategies in light of contemporary psychedelic research priorities.
  • Goal 2: To understand the science and cross-cultural underpinnings behind the potential clinical efficacy of the use of psychedelics for the treatment of medical conditions, as well as for the enhancement of creativity, well-being and for personal development.
  • Goal 3: To understand the foundational aspects of neuroscience, neuropharmacology and psychopharmacology pertaining to psychedelic medicines.
  • Goal 4: To develop specialized clinical knowledge and skill in facilitating others through alternate states of consciousness in a community clinic and/or research setting.
  • Goal 5: To attain competence as a psychotherapist with understanding and skills in the creation of appropriate set and setting for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy research.

"Alienation from nature and the loss of the experience of being part of the living creation is the greatest tragedy of our materialistic era. It is the causative reason for ecological devastation and climate change. Therefore I attribute absolute highest importance to consciousness change. I regard psychedelics as catalyzers for this. They are tools which are guiding our perception toward other deeper areas of our human existence, so that we again become aware of our spiritual essence. Psychedelic experiences in a safe setting can help our consciousness open up to this sensation of connection and of being one with nature.  ....  It is my great concern to separate psychedelics from the ongoing debates about drugs, and to highlight the potential inherent to these substances for self-awareness, as an adjunct in therapy, and for fundamental research into the human mind. It is my wish that a modern Eleusis will emerge, in which seeking humans can learn to have transcendent experiences with sacred substances in a safe setting. I am convinced that these soul-opening, mind-revealing substances will find their appropriate place in our society and our culture."       

                         --Albert Hofmann, in a letter from April, 2007 

Timely Scaling of the Training for 2021:

The huge success of the CIIS training program is widely known in this field and has enabled us to expand our programming for 2021. Our Center is scaling the certificate training in 2021 to include two cohorts of students who are mental health and medical professionals or ordained clergy. We are thrilled to offer a cohort in Boston, MA where East Coast based clinicians and clergy can more easily travel to be trained in psychedelic-assisted therapies and network in their local area. Another cohort will be based in San Francisco as in prior years. Because of our great success and significantly increased demand for admissions into this program, we are expanding the size of our program with an expected 100 trainees per cohort. The outstanding certificate curriculum will be markedly unchanged from the prior years with some improvements based on our program evaluations from the past five years. The engaging hybrid online-residential classes will continue to be conducted during an eight-month period with a summer break.

In addition to our successful San Francisco classes, we have carefully selected Boston as our second cohort location due to several key opportunities. Our applicants and alumni have given us feedback that an East Coast location will enhance the experience of the program for those from the eastern half of the country, Africa, and Europe. Boston is an emerging hub of psychedelic research with the presence of the active Boston Psychedelic Research Group (BPRG) of 500 professional members, as well as the newly created and forward-thinking Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Several leaders of the BPRG are graduates of the CIIS certificate training program, Harvard professors, on staff at MGH, or current local clinicians conducting psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy research. We are happy that many of these experienced leaders will be advisors, teachers, and mentors for the 2021 class. Our New England alumni will contribute to the growing professional network of psychedelic-assisted therapists and researchers in their regions.

Curricular Format:

For both the Boston and San Francisco based cohorts, the certificate program course schedule will be comprised of six weekends and a 5-day in-person retreat. While this has always been a hybrid program, given the realities of the pandemic and Covid-19, the spring 2021 classes will be held online. This strategy is consistent with the decisions of many universities across the country for safeguarding the health and well-being of students, staff, and faculty during the pandemic.

The community-building training retreats will be conducted at a retreat center, community center, or conference hotel. Five of the six weekends are online and one fall, 2021 weekend will be in-person in order to experience Holotropic Breathwork during part of that course meeting. The 2021 curriculum entails 150 total hours of instruction, including 120 of in class learning (online and in-person) and 30 hours of individualized learning, mentor consultations, and online video instruction. This hybrid online and in-classroom program is beneficial for trainees who are at a distance from Boston and San Francisco. Applicants will choose their preferred cohort at time of application, either San Francisco or Boston. All applicants commit to the timing of the cohort to which they are admitted. See the exact 2021 schedule on our About the Certificate page.

Innovative Curriculum and Learning Environment:

The learning environment is in the form of lectures, small group discussion, review of therapy session recordings, mentoring experiences, and experiential learning (e.g., Holotropic Breathwork, role-play, guided imagery, expressive arts, and journaling). Classes begin April 9, 2021 and end on December 5, 2021. The 5-day retreat training will be in the fall on two separate weekends: one near Boston and one near San Francisco. Lodging and coffee/refreshment service for this retreat is included in the cost of tuition. A special fall experiential weekend in September will include sessions of Holotropic Breathwork with Diane Haug who is a lead international teacher of the Grof Transpersonal Training.

An engaging feature of the hybrid program is the use of frequent flip classes, an innovative online learning pedagogy. In this type classes students preview a recorded lecture or presentation before the class weekend and bring questions and comments to the class meetings. During an extended discussion period, the teacher is then able to provide deeper discourse into the topics at hand during class. The training program includes opportunities each class day for more intimate small group discussions within a Home Group. These Home Groups are comprised of 7-9 trainees who co-create a learning pod together for the entire certificate training. Book chapters and peer reviewed journal articles are assigned by our teachers for each class. Throughout the program, prominent readings are required and recommended as foundational learning for this field. For a sneak peek see the 2021 textbook list.

Exceptional Collaboration with MAPS:

The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is currently requiring a five-module training for all eligible allied health professionals and clergy who wish to be permitted by MAPS to provide MDMA-assisted therapy after the FDA re-scheduling of MDMA. Since 2016, CIIS and MAPS have collaborated in organizing an opportunity for graduates of the CIIS program to efficiently complete MAPS therapist training. The five modules of the current MAPS training program are outlined here.

Notably, CIIS trainees will have completed three of the five modules required by MAPS to conduct MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in approved clinical settings. This means that our graduates will have completed half of the MAPS training program and are thus more readily able to finish their MAPS training. MAPS has generously granted this key benefit for CIIS graduates in which they save approximately half of the cost of the full MAPS training.

The two online June weekends and the 5-day fall retreats are collaboratively organized by CIIS and taught by MAPS. Michael Mithoefer, MD, and Annie Mithoefer, RN, will be our training’s MAPS expert instructors for the San Francisco cohort. Marcela Ot’alora, MA, LPC, and Bruce Poulter, MPH, will be the MAPS authoritative trainers for the Boston cohort.

Individualized Offerings Beyond the Classroom:

The certificate program provides students an exemplary experience for a hybrid program by offering many additional opportunities for elective individualized learning and networking. Students may select from a wealth of optional workshop offerings, book clubs, topical consultation groups, as well as ketamine-assisted psychotherapy training. These offerings also provide occasions for students to deepen their understanding of that expert’s work and field, to engage with one another in small groups, and acquaint themselves with more influential mentors and teachers. Opportunities for training in ketamine-assisted psychotherapy will be offered through affiliated, highly skilled instructors and may have a separate fee. In consultation with their mentor, students may receive credit for some of these varied offerings.

Each year there are several workshops which have included focused teaching on issues of accessibility, diversity and inclusion in the field; psychedelic session music; integration techniques; and strategies of creating regional psychedelic sciences groups. Topics covered in 2020 include Bill Richards’s book club on his text Sacred Knowledge and Chris Bache on his book LSD and the Mind of the Universe. Special groups included topics of depression and treatment failings; the art of psychedelic therapy integration; love, presence, compassion in this work; and addiction, psychedelics, and recovery. We also host social online film nights, including recent films and documentaries such as Fantastic Fungi and From Shock to Awe, with our students and mentors. These are incredible opportunities to study with experts in the field in smaller sized groups of trainees.

Mentoring and Learning Assessments:

Students work with a distinguished mentor who has experience in psychedelic-assisted and/or entactogen-assisted psychotherapy research or in related areas of clinical expertise. Our mentors are licensed clinicians and well-known researchers with expertise in the area of psychedelic studies. The mentors meet individually with students and with a small group of mentees regularly throughout the program. Professional development discussions, assessments, and confidential integration of learning will occur in mentoring. As part of the culmination of the training, students will write a final paper in the certificate, several of which have been published by our graduates in peer refereed journals.

At mid-year and at the end of the training, students and mentors complete several learning assessments. Trainees will complete a self-assessment of progress in the program, as well as an anonymous program evaluation in September, 2021 and February, 2022. Mentors will complete a year-end assessment of their mentees’ progress and an anonymous program evaluation. The Center staff utilize these reports to improves the program’s content and learning processes. We hold this research on trainee and program outcomes as essential for setting high academic standards in the continued evolution in the training psychedelic therapists and researchers.

Take a look at a Summary of the Certificate: Download the 2021 Information Packet 

The 150 Hour Certificate Curricular Modules of Study

(Click on each box below to get full details)

Research Foundations (15 Hours)

Renaissance in Research: Psychedelic-Assisted & Entactogen-Assisted Therapy 4 hours
  • Definitions of entactogens, psychedelics, hallucinogens, entheogens & empathogens
  • Confluence of psychedelic exploration, Eastern & Western spirituality during the 1950s & 1960s
  • Re-emergence of research in mid-80s & resurgence in 1990s
  • Brief history of psilocybin, MDMA, LSD, ibogaine, ketamine & ayahuasca research
  • Research on enhancement of creativity, meaning in life, and spiritual & mystical experiences
Pharmacology & Neuroscience  6 hours
  • Neuroscience, brain structures & brain imagery
  • Basic science of pharmacology & behavioral pharmacology
  • Cell biology and biochemistry, as related to these medicines
Legal Issues and Regulatory Processes 5 hours
  • Brief history of the scheduling of these medicines
  • Legal status of psychedelics & entactogens
  • Regulatory processes: FDA, DEA & State Research Advisory Panels
  • Institutional Review Board role for clinical research

Practices for Transformation of Consciousness (10 Hours)

Sacraments, Wisdom Traditions, Shamanism & Mystical Experiences 7 hours
  • Traditions for expansion of consciousness: meditation, yoga, dance, ceremony & ritual, fasting, solo wilderness journeys, etc.
  • Overview of shamanic uses of ayahuasca, ibogaine, peyote, San Pedro, salvia divinorum, mushrooms & other healing plants
  • Cross-cultural ceremonial use of psychedelics & plant medicines
  • Sacraments, spiritual usage & mystical experiences
  • Religious studies, entactogens & psychedelics
  • Ego strength, ego transcendence & transformational processes
Psychedelics & Entactogens: Community, Spirituality & Wellness 3 hours
  • Reparation, harm reduction & benefit enhancement: socio-cultural controversies, education & religion
  • Ecopsychology & plant medicine: traditional uses for individual & planetary health
  • Quality of life enhancement: vibrant community & the betterment of well people
  • Complementary medicine issues: nutrition & integrative approaches

Therapist Competencies and Therapeutic Processes (25 Hours)

Core Competencies & Healing Presence of Therapist Guide      5 hours
  • Primary therapeutic competencies for this work
  • Presence, empathy & non-directive support
  • Clergy, Chaplaincy & spiritual guidance insights
  • Methods & insights from psycholytic treatments
  • Psychedelic therapeutic methods vs. traditional verbal or somatic therapies
  • Skills of an effective co-therapist guide; on-site clinical research training strategies
Meaning Making: Preparation 5 hours
  • Role of preparation for optimal sessions
  • Medical and psychological pre-assessments & contraindications
  • Traditions of preparation: journaling, fasting, body work, & intention setting
  • Therapeutic skills for the preparation process
  • How personalities of the therapist guide & participant impact the process
Ethics, Safety Issues and Support Skills 5 hours
  • Ethics guidelines for therapists
  • I-Thou relationship with research volunteers & co-therapists
  • Creation & maintenance of healthy boundaries
  • Risk and protective factors
  • Contraindications for being a therapist guide & researcher
  • Set and setting of sessions: safety, agreements, intentions & comfort
  • Role of touch & non-verbal expression
  • Handling of music & sound healing in sessions
Acute Distress: Challenging Processes & Adverse Effects 5 hours
  • In-session acute distress & challenging shifts of consciousness
  • Medical & psychological emergency response protocols
  • Interventions for distress & adverse effects of MDMA, psilocybin, LSD, etc.
Integration: Practices & Goals 5 hours
  • Integration sessions: purpose & optimal outcomes
  • Steps of integration as practiced by various therapists & researchers
  • Integration skills: nuanced facilitating of the inner healer vs. orchestrating or imposing  theoretical models
  • Multicultural traditions for the integration of entactogen & psychedelic transformations
  • Use of plant medicines for staying connected and responsive to the earth
  • Relationship of self & community in mystical & spiritual meaning making

Experience of Guiding & Being Guided in Expanded States of Consciousness (25 Hours)

Holotropic Breathwork weekend retreat with Diane Haug
Role-plays of actual psychedelic-assisted sessions
Guided imagery, expressive artwork & self-hypnosis
Drumming & rattling inductions
Sample Optional Experiences
  • Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy training
  • Solo wilderness experience and/or sweat lodge 
  • Flotation tank or dance improvisation
  • 3-10 day meditation retreat or yoga retreat intensives
  • Hakomi or other somatic-based intensives

Online Learning: MAPS Module Part A (14 Hours)

  • This 14-hour home study online course outlines chemistry and history of MDMA, common reactions, possible mechanisms of action, and study design. The online course was developed out of content from the MAPS Treatment Manual, study protocols, and scientific literature on the subject.

En Vivo & Archival Instruction (45 Hours)

Observation and discussion of specific MAPS and Heffter therapy session videos
  • 5-day fall retreat with MAPS senior instructors and supervisors focused on videos of their MDMA-assisted therapy
  • In-class review of Heffter research participant videos

Mentoring & Professional Development (16 hours)

Mentoring and Individual Supervision  8 hours
  • Each student will work with a mentor from the program mentor list of clinically oriented or clergy members on the Council of Advisors, certificate teachers and international scholars. These mentors are advanced practitioners in their area of expertise. 
  • The mentor & supervisee will use video conferencing or meet in person for 5-6 hours during the certificate program.
  • This mentoring meeting will occur approximately once per month. Professional development discussions, assessments & confidential integration of learning will occur in supervision.
  • Personal therapy or spiritual guidance is encouraged for integrating the learning during the certificate work. The student will be asked to do so, if it is indicated for the student's continued personal and professional development.

Lifestyle Values: Mentor-Trainee Dialogue

  • Self-care for therapists: transference, secondary trauma & counter-transference
  • Living within opportunities & limits set by protocols and research traditions
  • Learning from mistakes & utilizing supervision well
  • Personal journaling during certificate coursework
Individualized Professional Development 8 hours
  • Students further expand their expertise in psychedelic-assisted therapies and research through 8 hours of individualized experiential training. In consultation with their mentor, students choose among a variety of options for fulfilling these hours: workshop offerings, book clubs, topical consultation groups, as well as ketamine-assisted psychotherapy training with affiliated instructors. Any trainings not provided by the certificate program, such as the ketamine-assisted psychotherapy training, may have a separate fee.

    Need to Contact Us?

    CIIS Center for Psychedelic Therapies and Research
    1453 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94103

    Dr. Cathy Coleman
    CPTR Admissions Manager | Certificate Manager
    Email: ccoleman@ciis.edu
    Phone: (415) 575-6261

    Leslie Carson, MS, LPCC
    Admission Project Assistant, and Certificate in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research Graduate 2017
    Email: admincptr@ciis.edu
    Phone: (415) 575-6243

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